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Stay Clear the Fire

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“Stay clear the fire”.

At my church we have groups that help people to overcome their set backs and demons which haunt them. We have groups for Veterans and First Responders who suffer from PTSD, a group for people overcoming alcohol and drug addictions, and to round it out, we have  men’s and women’s bible studies.

Last night at the men’s bible study we got into the topic of advice and rules given to men and women who are about to be set free from prison – we have a few men who are involved with prison ministry and mentoring. The advice, and or orders given to many prisoners, especially with addictions, is to not return to their old friends and neighborhoods. As Pastor Sam says, they need to “stay clear the fire, lest they get burned”. One of the worst things an addict can do is to return to their old stomping grounds and find themselves immersed back into the drug culture crowd. Addicts will pull these people back down into the bucket of crabs with a swiftness, which is when the cycle of their addictions begin once again. They have to stay clear of these people.

You may be asking yourself what does any of that have to do with you and weight loss.

You may have never experienced alcoholism or drug addiction at any point in your life, so what am I driving at?

My friends, whether you like it or not, if you have a problem with your appetite and obesity, you have more in common with alcoholics and drug addicts than you think. Food addiction is a complex condition that has similarities to other types of addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, or gambling. When we consume “highly palatable” foods, or foods that are high in carbohydrates, fat, salt, sugar, or artificial sweeteners, “feel-good” chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are released into our brains. Your body too becomes flooded with these “feel-good” chemicals. This is the same response as the human body gets from alcohol and drugs.

When you do not eat right, food can be just like a drug for you. Overexposure to highly palatable foods can increase your risk of developing a food addiction. What’s worse is children who are overexposed to highly palatable foods  are at an even higher risk. We have to teach our children young to stay clear of junk foods.

One of the main signs of food addiction to watch for in yourself and your loved ones is a loss of control over eating habits. As one who has also been overweight, I know what you feel like when  you want to stop but can’t. I too have been there where I have eaten to the point of feeling sick. I will also admit that I have felt ashamed or guilty about my eating too. You can’t tell me much of anything about this topic that I have not experienced.

While the DSM-5 ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has not yet established the criteria for food addiction, the symptoms are almost identical to any other. Symptoms include:

  1. Getting cravings despite feeling full. These cravings are not about a need for energy or nutrients — it’s the brain calling for something that releases dopamine in the brain to make you feel pleasure. While a craving alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have a food addiction,  when you get cravings and have difficulties ignoring or satisfying them, this may indicate that you have a problem.
  2. Eating more than you intended. If you are like me, there is no such thing as a small nibble of chocolate or just a single chocolate chip cookie. For many of us there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to junk foods. If you were to tell me to eat junk food in moderation, it would be no different than telling someone with alcoholism that it’s okay to drink beer in moderation. This has never worked for myself, and I doubt it has for you either.
  3. Eating until you are stuffed. Food addicts will usually not stop eating until their cravings have been satisfied. This is also known as binge eating.
  4. Feeling guilty about being gluttonous with food, yet you keep doing this over and over. Feelings of guilt after a period of binge eating is not uncommon, but despite these unpleasant feelings, a person with food addiction will keep repeating the pattern.
  5. Making excuses about your eating. When we are food addicted, we will commonly make up lame excuses as to why we give in to our cravings. For example, you might give in to your cravings by having a cheat meal or cheat day once a week because you are tired and deserve it. Or, you might say that you are hungry therefore you are going to eat that cookie or candy bar to only hold you over until dinner. You know this drill if you are food addicted.
  6. Repeated failures at dieting. When people are struggling with self-control, they often try to set rules for themselves. If you are like most people with a food addiction, you will almost always fail with these rules.
  7. Hiding your eating from others. For those who have had multiple failures at their diets, they  often start hiding their consumption of junk food from others because they are ashamed of themselves. If I am going to be intellectually honest, I have done this too.  Those of us with food addictions often prefer to eat alone, when no one else is home, alone in the car, or late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. I have done each of these things, what about you?
  8. You can’t control your appetite and cravings even when you know that it is wrecking your health. We see this phenomena pretty frequently. We all should be keenly aware that in the short term, junk food can lead to weight gain, acne, bad breath, fatigue, poor dental health, and other common problems. A lifetime of junk food consumption can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even some types of cancer.Someone who experiences any of these problems related to their intake of unhealthy foods but is unable to change their habits likely needs help. A treatment plan that’s designed by qualified medical and nutrition professionals is what will typically be recommended for overcoming eating disorders.

It does not matter if you like the idea or not, food addiction can wreck your life and you have to be serious about changing your habits and lifestyle. You have to stay clear of unhealthy eating! Yes, there are some things you will “have” to give up in order to gain a healthier body and life. You may think of this as unfair that you have to change your life in order to lose weight and then be able to keep it off, but the reality of life is “facts do not care about feelings”.

You have to learn to “stay clear the fire”.

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